Electric Dirt Bike vs. Gas Dirt Bike | The Ultimate Guide

The electric dirt bike and the gas dirt bike are very similar, but with a few key differences. Whether you’re a beginner buying your first dirt bike or an expert looking for an upgrade, it’s important to know the difference between these bikes to know what’s right for you.

An electric dirt bike is powered by a lithium-ion battery and therefore saves on operating costs, whereas a gas dirt bike is powered by either a two-stroke or a four-stroke engine and has more power. Electric bikes tend to be more expensive, but are easier to maintain than a gas dirt bike.

This article will discuss the differences between gas dirt bikes and electric dirt bikes, as well as their similarities and some things to take into account when purchasing a dirt bike or maintaining one that you already have. 

Know Your Environment

Before you make a choice about the right dirt bike for you, you should develop a clear picture of how and where you’ll want to use the bike. Most bikes can be used in multiple kinds of environments, but you’ll find that knowing what environment you’ll be riding in will help you find a bike that is especially well suited to your needs.

There are two main kinds of dirt biking: motocross and off-roading. Within motocross, there are three primary forms of competition: racing, freestyle, and supercross. There are also competitive forms of off-roading, with the main being enduro.

Motocross takes place on an outdoor track that is groomed for bikers. You’ll know what to expect as you take laps around the course and move through the preset ramps and turns. Motocross is both a recreational activity and a competitive sport. 

Motocross Racing

During an official motocross race, about 25 to 30 riders ride around the course for a certain number of laps, and the first to finish is considered the winner. In championship events, the fastest riders compete in a series of rounds leading up to a final race.

Freestyle Motocross

Freestyle motocross is like motocross racing in that it is performed on a set motocross course, but instead of being judged based on speed, riders are judged based on acrobatic stunts as they complete laps. 

One kind of freestyle motocross is big air, where the riders are given two major jumps covering a distance of 75 feet in which they can perform a stunt. In this kind of event, judges consider originality and difficulty and give a rating on a scale of 100. 

Another kind of freestyle motocross, simply called freestyle, involves two routines, each lasting 14 minutes and 90 seconds. During this time, the rider takes laps around the motocross course, performing a series of jumps at different lengths and at different angles. In this case, judges also evaluate the skill and originality of stunts and give a rating on a scale of 100. 

Supercross

Supercross is an indoor form of track racing that is very similar to motocross but technically considered its own sport. These courses are shorter than motocross courses and involve steeper jumps and harder obstacles, which are less similar to the natural terrain. Supercross tracks are also shorter than motocross courses.

Off-Road Dirt Biking

Off-roading, or trail riding, takes place on natural trails that span hundreds of miles and have endless unknown obstacles: rocks, holes, steep slopes, and tight corners. Off-roading bikes need to have bigger tires with more rubber padding and softer suspension to be able to handle these obstacles. 

Off-roading is also more doable with a push-button start than a kick start because you’ll need to start and stop the bike more often. These bikes are also often heavier than racing bikes because they have bigger gas tanks (if applicable) and more features built for comfort. 

However, all kinds of dirt bikes can be ridden for motocross or for off-roading. Different models simply have better performance in different areas. 

Enduro

Enduro racing happens on off-road courses, and are given points based on the rider’s timing. The race takes part in stages, and riders are allowed to re-fuel or service their vehicles at certain stops along the way. If they do not keep to this schedule for stops, they can be penalized and lose points.

Endurocross

EnduroCross is a mix between enduro racing and supercross, and is usually conducted on indoor tracks. Riders are judged based on both the time that it takes them to finish the course, like in enduro, and based on how well they navigate course obstacles, like in supercross. 

In EnduroCross, obstacles generally resemble outdoor obstacles, including rocks, boulders, fallen tree trunks, water, and mud, as well as giant tires and other obstacles. 

Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Gas-fueled bikes have been used since the 1800s, and racing came soon after. Motorcycle racing became popular in the early 1900s. These events all occurred on rough, open terrain, and races became official by the 1920s in the UK, funded by factories like BSA, Norton, and Matchless.

By World War II, motorized bikes took a lighter form with less rigid frames, better shock absorption, and suspension, looking more like the dirt bikes that we see today. The speed and power of these bikes improved due to these and other innovations in engineering.

By the 1960s, motocross became popular internationally, both in the United States and Japan. Major auto manufacturers Suzuki and Honda began producing dirt bike models designed for off-roading.

Since then, the engineering of motocross bikes has developed to improve speed and overall performance, but the basic design of the gas dirt bike has remained the same. 

Maintenance

Gas dirt bikes require regular maintenance of the engine, as well as the exterior of the bike. This includes washing and drying the bike and keeping a close eye on its performance, as well as changing the oil and air filter like you would for a car. 

The following steps are important to take for a gas dirt bike. Some of these are the same as what you’d do for an electric dirt bike, and some are unique. Generally, a gas dirt bike will require more steps in the maintenance routine.

  1. Gently wash your bike after every ride, using brushes and water, but avoiding getting water or dirt into the engine. You can, however, use a powerful stream of water, even a power jet.
  2. Dry the bike before checking for hardware problems. You can use a leaf blower to make the drying process faster.
  3. Check for oil leaks.
  4. Check for leaks in coolant and brake fluid.
  5. Clean dirt from the chain and let it dry.
  6. Inspect the chain for weak points or tension issues
  7. Lubricate the chain with chain lube like this Klotz UpLon lubricant or this Maxima Racing Oil.
  8. Lubricate the levers and cables, any moving parts.
  9. Inspect and tighten bolts.
  10. Check for frayed or bent control cables.
  11. Check your throttle for twisting issues.
  12. Make sure your air filter is clean and coated with oil.
  13. Check your tire pressure after every ride.
  14. Change your oil at least after every 8-10 hours of riding.
  15. Grease your engine to seal out water and dirt.

Technology

A gas dirt bike engine comes in two varieties: two-stroke and four-stroke. Both are internal combustion engines with pistons, cylinders, fuel, exhaust, and a crankshaft, although the four-stroke varieties operate more similarly to large vehicles like buses and cars. 

The dirt bike engine works by igniting a combination of fuel and air to move pistons up and down inside the cylinder, turning the crankshaft, which then turns the rear wheel of the bike. The clutch and the transmission allow you to control the rate and intensity at which this happens. 

Most gas dirt bikes are classified according to the size of the combustion chamber, measured in ccs. 1,000 cc is equal to about 0.22 gallons, and most engines are somewhere in the range of 250-350 cc. You may also find bikes classified according to the number and shape of cylinders, like in cars.

It’s important to note that the lubrication process is different between a two-stroke and a four-stroke engine. A two-stroke engine mixes oil and fuel, and so either needs a fuel pre-mixed with oil or needs oil injected into a reservoir that combines with fuel on intake. 

Having an oil reservoir means that you don’t need to worry about measuring the proper ratio of fuel to oil, but if something breaks in the pumping system, your engine can undergo serious damage.

The four-stroke engine is only ever lubricated through the use of an oil reservoir, which does not mix oil with fuel. 

Electric Start Gas Bikes

Some gas bikes have an electric start mechanism, making them hybrids mostly reliant on engine power but with a small battery and some electric features. The push-button start is the most common electric feature and allows the bike to start more quickly and smoothly.

Best on the Market

250cc Hawk Dirt Bike 5 speed Manual transmission, Big wheel, Electric kick start
250cc Pro-Hawk 5 speed Manual transmission, Big wheel, Electric kick start
125cc X-PRO Kids Dirt BikeBuilt for kids, 4 speed Manual transmission, Kick start, Big wheel
110cc X-PRO Kids Dirt Bike Built for kids, 4 speed Manual transmission, Electric kick start
Fit Right 49cc Kids Dirt BikeBuilt for kids, Aluminum big wheel, 2 stroke engine

Electric Dirt Bikes

History

Electric bikes were invented first in the 1890s, then evolved throughout the 1900s along with gas-powered bikes. However, very few electric bikes were available on the market for purchase at this time, even though they had been invented. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s that electric bikes really became available to consumers. 

During this time, electric bikes moved through a heavy lead-acid battery design to a lighter lithium-ion battery design, which made for more lightweight bikes. This led to speed improvements and extended the range that the bikes could go before needing to be charged. 

Maintenance

Electric dirt bikes require regular maintenance to prevent failure and injury, and to keep you from having to pay for repairs. Make sure to wash your bike after every ride, and to inspect components for hardware issues before they become a problem on the track or trail.

The following steps are important to take for the maintenance of an electric dirt bike:

  1. Very gently wash your bike after every ride, using brushes and water, but avoiding any powerful streams of water. It is very important not to get water into the electrical components.
  2. Dry the bike before checking for hardware problems. You can use a leaf blower to make the drying process faster.
  3. Check for leaks in coolant and brake fluid.
  4. Clean dirt from the chain and let it dry.
  5. Inspect the chain for weak points or tension issues.
  6. Lubricate the chain with chain lube like this Klotz UpLon lubricant or this Maxima Racing Oil.
  7. Lubricate the levels and cables, any moving parts.
  8. Inspect and tighten bolts.
  9. Check for frayed or bent control cables.
  10. Check your throttle for twisting issues.
  11. Check your tire pressure after every ride.
  12. Don’t store your bike in direct sunlight, or anywhere that the battery might overheat.
  13. Avoid opening electrical components, as they are difficult to seal and susceptible to water damage.
  14. Recharge the battery.

Technology

Most electric dirt bikes today are powered by lithium-ion batteries, which can be charged by removing the battery pack from the bike, turning it off, and plugging it into a general power outlet. Some bikes come with a spot for the charger on the bike so that you’re sure to have it when and where you need it.

Most electric bike batteries will charge within 2 to 6 hours, depending on their range. Some charge at a rate of about 15 miles per hour, while others charge faster, at a rate of 25 miles per hour. Generally, the bigger the range, the faster the battery will charge. 

Some more expensive models charge the battery as you ride, transferring energy each time you use the brakes. This can extend the life of your battery by 5-10%, although it also makes pedaling more difficult. 

Batteries last longest if they are charged before they run out of power, and so you’ll want to recharge the battery after every use if possible. There is no harm in unplugging the battery before it is fully charged. 

Many bike owners carry an extra battery so that they can make long trips and extend their range without worrying about stopping to charge. Without recharging, an electric bike will generally make it to about 22-56 miles, although some can go for over 70 miles.

You can extend the life of your battery by using the appropriate gears for different speeds and situations and by using a lower assistance setting on the bike. 

Lithium batteries tend to last 500 charging cycles before losing much of its power, and up to 1200 cycles on some bikes. This translates to about 10,000 to 30,000 miles of total bike usage. 

An electric bike can usually reach about 20 miles per hour, although some can go up to 28 miles per hour.

Best on the Market

Electric dirt bikes have become more advanced in recent years, now including high-quality brakes and suspension systems. These are ten of the best electric dirt bikes currently on the market:

KTM Freeride E-XCGreat for off-roading, Energy recuperation technology that means charging less often and for less time
Zero FXAllows you to adjust settings for different kinds of terrain, Includes Eco-friendly mode, Includes Sport mode, Top speed of 85 mph
Cake Kalk ORMade for off-roading, Unique design, Innovating engineering
Cake Kalk INKSimilar to the Cake Kalk OR, but sturdier, Top speed of 50 mph, Range of three hours
Cake Kalk&Street legal, Similar in style to the Kalk OR design
Oset 24.0 RacingBattery-powered, Appropriate for a wide range of ages
KTM SX-E 5Made for beginner, junior riders, Quiet, ideal for noise-restricted areas
Husqvarna EE 5Suited for kids, Adjustable seat height, Range of two hours for general riding, 25 minutes for racing
Oset MX-10Starter bike for young kids, Maximum speed of 22 mph
Oset 12.5 RacingBuilt for young, beginner riders

Similarities Between Electric Dirt Bikes and Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Both electric and gas-powered bikes were invented in the 1800s and improved in performance and style throughout the 1900s. 

Maintenance

Both gas and dirt bikes require regular maintenance to keep performing well and prevent the occurrence of mechanical failures, which can cause major accidents and injuries. All dirt bikes are also expensive to repair, so maintenance is also important from a cost-saving perspective.

No matter which kind of bike you have, it’s important to wash and dry it after every ride, and make sure that no liquids are leaking, no matter whether or not oil leaks are a concern. There is also coolant and brake fluid to consider, which both kinds of bikes have. 

Both kinds of bikes also have chains that need to be checked and cleaned, as well as bolts and control cables. Tire pressure and brake liquid levels should be maintained in either case, too. 

Technology

Both gas and dirt bikes are powered and need to be re-supplied with energy from time to time, and work through the use of a clutch and transmission. For this reason, the experience of riding and guiding a bike is generally similar between an electric and gas bike.

Differences Between Electric Dirt Bikes and Gas Dirt Bikes

History

Although gas and electric bikes came onto the scene at roughly the same time, gas bikes were available to consumers at a much earlier time and were at the heart of early motorized racing. It wasn’t until about a century after their invention that electric bikes became purchasable and usable for racing purposes. 

Maintenance

Electric dirt bikes are easier to maintain than gas dirt bikes because they do not require engine maintenance. Oil changes and leak checks, air filter cleanings, and engine maintenance are all unnecessary or not relevant to an electric bike, but are necessary for the owner of a gas dirt bike. 

However, the electrical components of an electric dirt bike are very sensitive to water and overheating, so it’s very important to be careful washing the bike with water and to keep the bike in temperature-controlled environments.

Technology

Where electric bikes are fueled by a lithium-ion battery, gas bikes are fueled by either a two-stroke or four-stroke combustion engine. Generally, the battery-powered model will have a longer range before needing a new supply of power, but the gas engine will top out at higher speeds. 

Cost

Although both electric dirt bikes and gas dirt bikes come in a range of prices, depending on the model, electric dirt bikes will usually be more expensive. However, gas dirt bikes involve more maintenance expenses, and so the cost can also build over time. 

How to Choose a Bike

When choosing which dirt bike to purchase, there are a number of factors you’ll want to consider. First, make sure that you understand the context you’ll be riding in. You should know what kind of terrain you’ll need to be ready for, how long you expect to ride, and how fast you need to be able to go. 

If you are a beginner purchasing your first dirt bike, you’ll likely want to choose a secondhand bike with a gas engine, which is easier to find and generally cheaper for the amount of power that you get. 

If you have some experience riding and want a bike that will go longer distances and be easier to maintain, and have the money to spend, you’ll likely be happiest investing in an electric bike. 

Consider these factors as you look through your options, whether you choose gas or electric. 

Bike Size

Your height, weight, arm length, and leg length are all relevant in picking a bike, and so the best way to find a good fit is to sit on the bike and see how it feels. Notice how heavy the bike feels, whether your feet can sit flat on the ground and whether you can reach the handlebars with a straight back and 90-degree angle in your elbows. 

You should have room to reach the pedals without more than a slight bend in the knees, without being cramped. 

Tire Size

Dirt bikes are made with a smaller wheel in the rear, which helps with fast acceleration, and a larger wheel in the front, which allows you to ride smoothly over rocks and other rough terrains. 

If you’re hoping to spend more time off-roading, find a bike with smaller wheels and more rubber, which can take more of a beating from rocks and other obstacles. 

In general, larger wheel sizes means for a more comfortable ride for beginners.

Motor Size

If you’re choosing a gas bike, check for a value measured in cc, like 250cc or 450cc. This stands for cubic centimeters and will tell you how big the dirt bike’s cylinders are. Higher numbers and larger cylinders mean that the bike will have more power, while lower numbers and a smaller cylinder size means less power. 

Note that high and low cylinder sizes do not always go along with the size of the bike itself. A smaller bike can have a larger engine, and a larger bike can have a smaller engine. Other factors, like ground clearance, can be a reason for differences in bike sizes. 

Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke Engines

In gas bikes, you will have the choice between models with a two-stroke engine and models with a four-stroke engine. Two-stroke engines will speed up more quickly, whereas four-stroke engines will have more consistent power and more reliable motors. 

Best Bikes for Beginners

The following are the best dirt bikes for beginners, based on ease of use and durability.

The Honda CRF250X – Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Electric, push-button start for quick and easy starting and stopping
  • High ground clearance good for inconsistent terrain
  • Four-stroke engine and consistent speed
  • Easy to find replacement parts
  • Easy steering
  • 250cc

The Honda CRF230F Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Reliable four-stroke engine
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable seating
  • Lower ground clearance
  • 230cc

The Yamaha YZ125 – Best Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Introduced to the U.S. in the 1970s
  • Well-known trick bike
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy motor to maintain, rebuild
  • 125cc

The Yamaha TTR-50 – Kids Beginner Dirt Bike

  • Tailored for kids
  • Four-stroke engine
  • Only three gears, can be left in one gear for learning
  • Training wheels
  • Speed control mechanisms to keep the bike from reaching its highest speeds
  • Highly available
  • Electric start

The Kawasaki KLX110

  • Highly customizable, upgradable
  • Four-stroke engine
  • Low center of gravity
  • Four gears
  • Easy to balance

Conclusion

Electric dirt bikes and gas dirt bikes are very similar in function, but are different in that electric dirt bikes tend to have less power but are easier maintenance and are more environmentally friendly. Electric dirt bikes also tend to be more expensive, and so are better for riders with more experience than for beginners.

Can You Ride Dirt Bikes in National Parks?

Most of the country’s national parks look like the perfect place to crank up your dirt bike. The winding path, cutting through picturesque woods, is always very inviting, but is it legal? Are you allowed to ride in any park you choose?

You can’t ride dirt bikes in national parks. However, the laws will vary from one state to the other. Most states have banned dirt bikes and other ATVs from national parks, but some have provided recreation areas, allowing some ATV use in some parks, National Forests, and BLM land.

The rest of the article will take a look at what you need to know about riding dirt bikes in national parks and the laws guiding them. You’ll also see some of the most popular parks in the country that allow dirt bikes.

Laws Guiding National Parks and OHV Use

Two main laws are guiding against the use of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) such as dirt bikes on federal lands. The first one is the Executive Order 11644, February 8, 1972, which defined the types of banned vehicles from federal lands. A subsequent amendment to the order, E.O. 11989, May 24, 1977, removed military and emergency vehicles from the definition of banned vehicles.

However, the law gave the administrators of any federal land the authority to immediately close off a trail or area if dirt bikes and other OHVs are causing or can damage vegetation, soil, or wildlife in an area. 

So, if there is no way to accommodate OHV activities in a park without endangering flora and fauna, you can be sure the park will get closed off to dirt bikes, quads, and other such vehicles.

National Parks and Dirt Bikes Today

The National Park Service currently limits OHV use in the park system to these four land units:

  • National preserves
  • National lakeshores
  • National seashores
  • National recreational areas

The regulations guiding the service also require the service to make special rules, considering public comment and environmental impact analysis to come up with routes and areas for dirt bikes and other OHVs in the different parks. Their policies allow OHV use in locations that won’t have any adverse effects on the land’s cultural, natural, scenic, and aesthetic values.

The National Park Service is designed to provide enjoyment to the public, but they are also charged with conservation. Presently, they always tend to favor conservation when there’s a conflict between recreational use and preservation.

This is why the National Park Service has few lands open to dirt bikes and other OHVs compared to other agencies in charge of federal land management like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. In 2013, the National Park Service reported over 286 million recreational visits for 2012, using OHVs soaring in popularity.

They have since designated 12 out of the 398 park units as open for ATV use. These units include the following:

  • Cape Lookout National Seashore
  • Padre Island National Seashore
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Fire Island National Seashore
  • Assateague National Seashore
  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  • Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
  • Cape Cod National Seashore
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Gateway National Recreation Area
  • Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area

Different levels of use are also allowed in each of these parks.

Riding Dirt Bikes in National Forest and BLM Lands

There are no collective regulations for dirt bike or general OHV use in National Forests. This is because each forest has its specific restrictions.

This makes things a bit difficult to find out what works where, but the National Forest Service is unrivaled when it comes to providing information for where ATVs or OHVs are permitted. All you need to do is visit the specific National Forest website to see what is allowed.

Don’t know the website? A quick Google search should show you the website. Once there, click on the “Recreation” tab on the left, and then choose “OHV Riding” to see all the details you need. You can also use this resource on the Motor Vehicle Use Map for each National Forest. Everything is organized by state, making it easy to find the specific forest you’re looking for.

With BLM lands, there’s a lot more freedom on where you can ride dirt bikes. Only 6% of the BLM land (13.1 million acres) is closed off to OHV use. On the remaining lands, OHV use is restricted to either specific trails or completely free of any restrictions.

If you’re in Alaska, the bulk of the BLM lands are very much open to using, as most of them are not designated. To find out exactly what each BLM land permits is more difficult, but the BLM maps site does a decent job.

The Best Location for a Legal Dirt Bike Park Experience

Are you looking for the perfect place to go for an outdoor adventure with your dirt bike without worrying about breaking the law? You’ll find some of the best below:

Taylor Park, Colorado

Taylor Park is a top dirt bike riding location that attracts many enthusiasts all year round. This mountain playground has everything you need for a great riding experience. When you want a break for your bike, you can go fishing or unwind at the designated camping grounds.

Windrock Park, Tennessee

Windrock Park holds 300 miles of trails spread over 72,000 acres. It’s the largest privately owned park in the country, welcoming all kinds of OHVs all year round.

There are trails for riders of all experience levels, so you should research carefully before deciding on the park areas to explore. Stairsteps, gavel washes, mountainside trails, it has it all. The knowledgeable locals on the ground will guide you anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to be adequately prepared.

Red River Motorcycle Park

As the name implies, this park offers over 2,500 acres geared towards dirt bikes and motorcycles. You’ll find a wide selection of moderate to advanced trails to test your skills, with surfaces made of sand, clay, rocks, etc. However, the park is only open on weekends.

The Grand Canyon National Park Arizona

The trails in this National Park are some of the most challenging you’ll experience. It’s divided into a North and South Rim, with the latter typically the busier.

The North is the best if you are an experienced rider looking for a little or no disturbance while riding. However, the North Rim isn’t safe in the winter as the snow can get very deep, making it impossible to get around, let alone ride your bike.

These are just a few outdoor dirt bike trials that deliver an exhilarating experience. As you’ve seen above, most of them are not protected by the National Park Service. However, you’re sure to enjoy an experience similar to what you’ll find in most of the National Parks, or better, especially compared to the National Seashore Park units in the list above.

Conclusion

The National Park Service’s regulations mean you can’t ride dirt bikes in most of the 398 National Parks. However, some of the parks have been designated for some OHV use. Go over the 12 of them listed above to see if they are close to you and also have bike trails worthy of your experience level.

If you are just looking for a great outdoor experience on your bike, you can explore the National Forests and BLM land in your area using the tips we’ve covered above. Alternatively, you can visit some of the private or local parks in your area.

Are Dirt Bikes Hard to Maintain?

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Dirt bikes are all about getting down and dirty and adrenaline-soaked adventures across formidable terrains. Dirt bikers will swear that no other sport can come close to motocross or trail riding. But how challenging is it to keep those dirt bikes running?

Dirt bikes require more frequent maintenance because they endure impacts and stresses more than common road bikes. To run at peak performance, they require frequent inspection and servicing. Yet most dirt bikes have more simple working parts and are easier to repair oneself than road bikes.

To understand a dirt bike’s maintenance requirements, we have created a list of common problems particular to this bike type. You may then have a clearer idea of the challenges you would expect if you decided to own a dirt bike yourself.

What Is a Dirt Bike?

Merriman-Webster defines a dirt bike as “usually lightweight motorcycle designed for operation on unpaved surfaces.” Dirt Bikes are made to be ridden on hilly and uneven terrain in all kinds of weather conditions. They are used in motocross racing popular in North America, Asia, and Europe. 

There are two larger categories within the term ‘dirt bike’ which are motocross racing and trail riding. Although the term motocross can be used for both, generally, motocross refers to the sport of dirt bike riding on a prepared outdoor track. 

Dirt Bike vs. Motocross vs. Enduro

Though every motocross bike is a dirt bike, not every dirt bike is a motocross bike. Motocross bikes are made for speed and agility and need a high degree of maintenance. Dirt bikes are less specialized and easier to maintain. Enduros are larger, heavier bikes with larger gas tanks for longer distance races.

Your average dirt bike has a long-travel suspension and rugged tires with a high seat position. These lightweights, single-cylinder bikes are designed to tackle any terrain such as desert woods or mountainous terrain.

Two-Stroke vs. Four-Stroke 

When it comes to dirt bikes, riders choose between a two-stroke (2T) and a four-stroke (4T) dirt bike motor. The 2T has one revolution of the crankshaft within one power stroke while the 4T has two. The 2T does not have a dedicated system delivering lubrication to the crankcase while the 4T does.

Common Maintenance Requirements in Dirt Bikes

Although two-stroke and four-stroke dirt bikes are easier to repair because of fewer moving parts, the maintenance necessary to maintain your bike properly is high compared to road bikes to prevent your dirt bike from malfunction or failure. 

Preventative Maintenance Requirements of a Dirt Bike

Many of the maintenance routines for a dirt bike are not excessively difficult or strenuous in themselves. These preventative maintenance requirements become a routine in a dirt bikers’ life and are part of the off-road experience.

Preventative maintenance saves dirt bike owners on costly repairs on their bikes and even prevents them from injury in extreme cases. Responsible riders follow a maintenance routine to get a longer lifespan out of their dirt bikes and overall better performance in the short term. The following is a list of what a dirt bike owner would be expected to do to maintain an optimally running dirt bike.

Wash Your Bike After Every Ride

Wash your dirt bike after each ride, whenever possible. Not only do you keep your bike’s parts free of debris and dust, but you also get a chance to look your bike over and check for any problems. A gentle wash is recommended with water and brushes or cloths. If you use a pressure hose, be extra careful to direct the water away from the bike and not into the engine or electrics. 

A great step to add to your dirt bike routine is to use your washing time to inspect your bike for problems. Preventative measures taken early can save you a lot of money in the long run with costly repairs and replacements.

Dry Your Bike Before Inspecting It

Many dirt bike enthusiasts recommend drying your bike after a wash down by taking it for a short spin. Whether you use the sun or a leaf blower to get the job done, make sure your bike is dry before conducting your maintenance inspection. Once your bike is clean and dry, you can easily spot oil drips or coolant and brake fluid leaks.

Check for Oil Leaks

Oil leaks may be a result of poor maintenance or just general wear and tear on your seals. The first culprits are usually the crankcase or a worn gasket, and a typical leak is from behind the front sprocket, which is called the countershaft seal. Wipe the oil from under your bike, visually inspect for leaks, and keep an eye out for any coolant or brake fluid.

Check your transmission oil levels and reference your user manual to determine your oil quantity and viscosity.

Inspect and Clean Your Drive Chain

If your chain is covered in mud, wait for it to dry and brush it off with a nylon brush. Once your chain is clean, lubricate it well with a high-quality chain lubricator. The lube fills in the cracks and notches where dirt can collect. 

Motocross and dirt bike riders tend to favor non-O-ring chains because they are lighter. This means they need to clean and lubricate their chains quite often, depending on the amount of riding time. It is better to lubricate your chain after your ride so that it has time to soak in and fully penetrate your chain.

Check Your Chain Tension

Your chain should always have some slack to compensate for the movement of the suspension. However, if you can remove your chain from the rear sprocket, it is too loose. The ideal amount of chain play is ½ inch (13mm) when the swingarm is parallel to the floor.

Inspect Your Bolts

Your bolts can sometimes be shaken loose under extreme vibrations and intensive riding. You should always conduct a check that your bolts are firmly in place to prevent anything shaking loose on a ride.

Check Your Bikes Controls and Control Cables

If your throttle and clutch cables show any signs of wear or fraying, you should replace them. You should also check your throttle control for the correct amount of free play. An excellent way to test this play is to:

  1. Place your bike on a work stand, start it, and let it idle.
  2. Rotate your handlebars to their full range of motion and listen carefully for any increases in your RPMs.
  3. If you hear an increase, your throttle needs more free play.

Also, check that your throttle is responsive, making sure it snaps back when twisted.

Check Your Air Filter

Your air filter plays an essential job in keeping sand, dirt, and debris from getting into your bike’s engine. A dirty air filter will affect your bike’s performance and cause damage to the piston and barrel. If you have a washable filter, you can clean your filter in warm water and a household cleaner, such as Simple Green. 

If you need to replace your filter, make sure you buy a high-quality one with a dual-stage bonded foam filter and thick sealing rings.

Check Your Tires

Your dirt bike wheel bears up quite a load, and your spokes could loosen, and your wheels may fall out of alignment. This leads to uneven weight on your hub and rim. A torque wrench is an excellent investment to ensure your spokes are the right tightness. 

Ensure your rims are round and have no dents or cracks and then check your tire pressure. It’s essential to ensure that you maintain the correct psi in your tires. You can use the TireTek Tire Pressure Gauge and ensure that your psi is correct. The average psi for all-round dirt biking is 12psi, but it can fluctuate between 8-18psi depending on the terrain.

Do an Oil Change

If you spend a lot of time in mud or your bike endures extreme duty, you should consider changing your oil more often. The frequency of oil change can depend on the particular bike, your riding conditions, and your dirt bike’s age. Your oil lubricates all the working components in your bike’s engine. 

When your oil levels fall too far, these metal components rub against each other, creating intensely high heat. This could cause your engine to seize and be permanently damaged.

Some dirt bikers advise an oil change each ride while others suggest 8-10 riding hours. Check your owner’s manual for your manufacturer’s recommendations for oil changes.

Check Your Fluid Levels

If you are racing, you should bleed your brakes every 20 hours, and recreational dirt bikers should do it every 40 riding hours. Brake fluid can go bad when it absorbs water and becomes contaminated. Off-road bikes generally use a DOT-3, 4, or 5 brake fluid, but you should check your manufacturer’s specifications in your user manual.

Grease Your Bike

Inspect your:

  • Air filter seal
  • Swingarm
  • Hardware
  • Wheel bearings and seals
  • Shock seals and forks
  • Steering head bearings

If necessary, grease these components to keep out moisture and debris and to provide lubrication. 

Check Your Brake Pads

Your brake pads may wear down over time, and if it wears down too far, it may even destroy the brake rotor. Worse yet, your brakes may fail. You need to routinely check your dirt bike brake pads and replace them at signs of thinning or visible wear. A rule of thumb is to replace the pad when 1.0mm (0.04 inches) of the brake pad remains.

Check Your Sprockets

Your sprockets transfer power to the rear wheel via the drive chain, and they endure heavy energy loads. Your countershaft and rear sprockets will wear out over time, and you should do visual checks often. A rule of thumb is to replace your sprockets when you replace your chain or every 15,000 miles. Refer to your owners manual for their particular specifications.

Other Common Dirt Bike Maintenance Requirements

Do a Compression Test

An easy way to check that your dirt bike engine condition is to perform a compression test. You may find motorcycle compression kits online, such as the OTC Motorcycle Compression Kit. The tester comes with multiple plug spark fittings and works by placing the hose and adapter into your spark plug hole. You then open the throttle and kick the bike over 5-10 times and watch for the reading at maximum pressure.

A well-functioning 250cc engine should read at about 175-200-plus psi, and a mini or 125cc should read at about 150-200 psi. If your compression is 20% lower than your baseline, you need to replace your piston and your rings.

Check Your Piston or Rings

Average intensity riders should replace their piston and rings every 20 hours on an 85/125 and every 40 hours on a 250cc. If you don’t have an hour meter on your bike, you can install an aftermarket one as its a handy way to remind yourself that it is time to perform some maintenance. Sign that your piston and rings are worn is excessive smoke and a loss of power. Pistons come in different sizes, and it’s best to use the specs to replace the piston if it has excessive wear. 

Check for Main Seal Leakage

If you notice oil residue around the seal on the bike’s magneto (left side), you can check the crank bearings for looseness to determine the leak. Main seal leaks can cause air to be drawn into the crankcase and make the bike run lean or too much air and not enough fuel.

The main seal on your transmission side will cause the oil to leak into the crankcase. The signs would be excessive smoke, the bike running rich or too much gas, and the transmission oil will smell rank. If you are uncertain, a mechanic can run a crankcase pressure test to determine the leaking seal.

Check for Other Leaks

Head gasket leaks will typically cause your motor to misfire at high rpm or when it is hot and produce white smoke that may smell of coolant. You might find leakage will occur at the top of your head gasket, and air leaks may develop at the air boot and manifold. The head gasket should be checked that it is flat and in spec. Both gasket and intake air leaks may cause erratic acceleration.

Check if Your Exhaust Valves Are Clean

Your owner’s manual should tell you how often you should clean your exhaust valves clearance. If you don’t have access to a manual, the inspection should be 15 hours to 15,000 miles. Carbon can clog your valves, and you won’t get much top end, and you will notice your spark plugs are being burned through often.

Check Your Silencer

Part of your dirt bike maintenance routine includes repacking your bike’s silencer or muffler. As a rule of thumb, you should aim to repack your muffler after every 50 hours of riding. The owner’s manual should specify your particular bike’s requirements.

Repacking is simple if you follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the slip-on from the rest of the exhaust.
  2. Remove the outlet cap on the end of the pipe. Usually, these are screwed in, but you may need a rivet gun if it has rivets.
  3. Take out the old packing wrapped around the inner core tube.
  4. Place your new packing and wrap it tightly around the inner core tube.
  5. Slide back into the exhaust pipe.
  6. Replace the outlet cap and the slip-on.

Check Your Reeds

Your reed valves control the air and fuel mixture that goes into the cylinder. As the piston rises, it creates a vacuum in the crankcase. The reed ensures that the mix won’t move back into the carburetor and only moves in one direction from the carburetor to the crankcase.

Reeds should ideally be checked every 10 hours of riding and replaced at least once a year. If your reeds are worn or damaged, you may have difficulty starting your bike.

Check Your Fuel

Always use fresh, high-quality fuel with a suitable octane rating for your particular dirt bike. Refer to your owner’s manual to ensure you are using the right fuel. Octane 87 is acceptable for fuel injected 4-Strokes, but in a 2-stroke, the best gas would be an ethanol-free 92 or 93 octane.

A lower octane can cause pinging or knocking noises caused by detonation when your fuel burns too fast. Try your best only to use non-ethanol blends where you can, but never have more than 10% ethanol-based fuel.

Conclusion

Dirt bikes are a hands-on affair with more frequent checks, tweaks, and required changes in other types of motorcycles. One must bear in mind the unique functions of these small but seemingly indestructible machines and the off-road experience.
It’s no surprise that some of the top MotoGP icons, such as Valentino Rossi, have a motocross background. For some, it’s the ultimate riding experience. You just may have to put in a bit more work.